Movies - TV
Avatar: The Way Of Water's Recent CGI Reveal Has Us Questioning Reality
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is a monumental achievement in visual effects, and new tools were created for the film, including water simulators and technological advances in performance capture. One behind-the-scenes look has finally settled the hottest debate tied to the movie — whether that one shot of Jake cinching a leather strap around his hand was CGI or not.
VFX Supervisor Eric Saindon appeared in a recent video from Corridor Crew and clarified that the team did record a live-action version of the shot for reference, then essentially recreated the movement in CGI through rotoscoping. The end result is a shot where only the foreground hand wrapped in the strap is live-action, then everything around it, including the water, is CGI.
The VFX team developed a tool to get live depth compositing, using two cameras on the side of the main camera rig and deep learning to map depth so that it could distinguish what CG element was layered where. The shot looks so stunningly real because of the fidelity of the movements, which required absolutely flawless capture of the live-action footage.
Perhaps more surprising than the strap shot explanation was the reveal by Saindon of a scene that looked mostly real, but was in fact mostly CGI — the shot where Spider drags Quaritch out of the water after saving his life at the end of the film. Due to logistical constraints, the filmmakers shot part of the set, using a fake rock, and then replaced most of the shot with CGI.